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Experts advise children to strap on helmets
Properly fitting headwear can protect kids from serious injury
0601BIKE-SAFETY
Next to motor-vehicle injuries, bicycles injure more children than any other consumer product, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

Bicycle statistics

  • 91 percent of bicyclists (of all ages) killed in 2009 were not wearing a helmet.
  • Children with bicycle-related head injuries are more likely to require hospitalization and have their injuries result in death.
  • Nearly 630 children on average are injured daily because of cycle-related crashes.
  • More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in emergency departments for injuries related to biking than any other sport.
  • Almost half of bicycle crashes occur in driveways or on sidewalks.
  • Each month, three out of four children in the U.S. ride a bicycle.
  • 45 percent of children always wear a helmet while bicycling.
  • Apart from the automobile, bicycles are tied to more childhood injuries than any other consumer product.

Source: Safe Kids Hall County or www.safekidsgainesvillehall.org.

Learning to ride a bicycle is a part of most childhoods in the United States.

More than 70 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 ride bicycles, and 55 percent of those children don’t always wear a helmet, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Today in-line skating and skateboarding have also become fixtures for many kids.

Next to motor-vehicle injuries, bicycles injure more children than any other consumer product, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Head injuries are the most common and often most serious injury sustained on a bike, in-line skates, scooters or skateboards. Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of death or injury due to a head injury.

“Summer weather promotes great outdoor activities, such as biking and skateboarding,” said Dr. Steven Adamson, Emergency Department director of Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City. “However, bicycle and skateboard injuries are far too common in the emergency department. Wearing a helmet and appropriate safety gear along with following safety rules can prevent many injuries. Adults and kids need to take appropriate safety precautions.”

Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bicycle, in-line skating or skateboarding should be an automatic habit for anyone, regardless of their age.

“Helmets are designed to prevent blunt force injuries,” said Nathan O’Neill, manager at Wrenched Bicycles on Bradford Street in Gainesville. “They have been proven to prevent a large percent of brain injuries.”

O’Neill explained new technology coming out called MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) acts like a suspension system inside the helmet for the head, assisting in preventing injuries.

“The head doesn’t move as quickly if it hits at an angle or twists,” O’Neill said.

But the more important factor when wearing a helmet is fitting it to each person. If purchasing a helmet for a child, take the child. Kids may be more likely to wear a helmet if they pick it out and it fits properly.

“(Helmets) need to be worn low on the forehead and buckled under the chin firmly,” O’Neill said.  “(Children) tend to wear them too far back, and the forehead is completely exposed if they do a face plant.”

If a child participates in more than one wheeled sport such as in-line skates, skateboards or scooters, a multi-sport helmet should be selected. For example, skateboarding helmets are designed to have a little more coverage, O’Neill said.

“They come below the crown,” he said. “There have been some injuries in recent months where the back of the head was completely open and they did not make it. It’s a feature of some mountain bike helmets now.”

Many bicycle crashes and injuries can be prevented by simply following road safety rules:

  • Stop before riding into traffic from a driveway, sidewalk, parking lot or other street.
  • Look left, right and left again to check for cars.
  • If the road is clear, enter.
  • Ride on the far right of the road, with traffic.
  • Ride so cars can see you, wearing brightly colored clothes — especially at night.
  • Obey all traffic signals and stop signs.
  • Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left.
  • Ride bicycles in single file.
  • Look for uneven pavement or other surface problems.
  • Use hand signals to signal turns and stops.

“Number one is behave appropriately and obey the road rules,” O’Neill said. “Getting reciprocal respect from motorists has a lot to do with us behaving as proper road users.”

In addition, it’s important to wear protective gear when skateboarding or in-line skating — elbow and knee pads, gloves, helmets and wrist guards.

Even experienced skateboarders can fall, so learning how to fall safely can help reduce the risk of severe injuries. The following are recommendations from the National Safety Council about how to fall correctly:

  • When losing your balance, crouch down on the skateboard so your fall is short.
  • Try to land on fleshy parts of your body.
  • Try to roll as you fall, which prevents your arms from absorbing all the force.
  • Try to relax rather than remaining stiff.

When riding a skateboard, obey all traffic rules. Do not hitch rides from bicycles, cars or other vehicles. Only practice tricks in designated skateboarding areas.

Wheeled sports provide great exercise. The use of the right safety equipment can help ensure the sport is also fun.

Kelsey Williamson contributed to this report.

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